Bridges Project: Borden Avenue Bridge

For a small body of water, the Newtown Creek and its inlet, the Dutch Kill, sure have a lot of bridges over it. Its not surprising of course, these have been working waterways for scores of years and are still lined with warehouses – crossing them was a matter of economic expediency, and since they’re relatively narrow, the cost of adding another bridge was never high, allowing for the construction of bridges very, close together.

Take for instance the Borden Avenue Bridge over the Dutch Kill (#60 on the McCarthy List). It lies less than a quarter mile from the Hunters Point Avenue Bridge, and cross the same body of water. If they were much closes together, they’d touch. Hunters Points Avenue bridge isn’t particularly exciting, but its downright fascinating compared to Borden Avenue. The only thing of note I can say about this bridge is that it sits adjacent to a really sketchy looking strip club. Strip club with a view of Dutch Kill? Classy.

Here’s a picture taken from the bridge of good friend and frequent runner partner Joe, and in the far distance, the Freedom tower.

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Access to the bridge is self explanatory, take Borden avenue from 25th street to 30th street (or vice versa) and you’ll be on it.

Bridges Project: Hunters Point Avenue Bridge

Long Island City may be more well known now for condos than warehouses, but if you head east off the Pulaski Bridge  the condos quickly fade to warehouses and sketchy looking strip clubs. This is where you’ll find the little Hunters Point Avenue Bridge (#19 on the McCarthy List), a little bridge which takes Hunters Point avenue over the Dutch Kill, a small inlet of the Newtown Creek.

Joe and I hit this one up last weekend. My favorite part is the sign that tells you not to go swimming.

Here’s my instagraming.

Access to the bridge is from (duh) continuing on Hunters Points Avenue from 27th St. to30th St. (or vice versa). True nerds may wish to note that this is one of the rarely seen single-leaf bascule drawbridge, meaning it raises on only one side!

 

Bridges Project: The Grand Street Bridges

When Phil was putting together his list of runnable bridges in New York, he wisely choose to put these two bridges together as a single entry (#11). Not much to report here really, two bridges, on grand street, over two sections of the terminus of the Newtown creek. The neighborhood is industrial headed leaning hipster, and the bridges are at steet level (i.e. no elevation gain to speak of). Doesn’t have quite the post-industrial gnarliness of the Greenpoint avenue bridge, but isn’t exactly pretty either.

Access is straight forward, just run along Grand street between Vandervoort and 47th street and you’ll hit them both.

Bridges Project: Greenpoint Avenue Bridge

Trying to get after these bridges while also trying to raise a two year can be a challenge. Right now, I’m going for some low hanging fruit within easy long run distance of my house. Today, it was out to hit a couple more of the bridges which cross the Newtown creek.
First up was this one, the Greenpoint Avenue bridge (# on the McCarthy List), a big four laner that takes you from industrial part of Greenpoint Brooklyn to the industrial park of Long Island City. No condos here, people, (at least not yet) its all salvage yards and storage facilities. To the east, you can see the bigger, more commonly run Pulaski bridge, to the west, the dreaded Kosciuszko, home to perpetual bumper to bumper traffic (and no pedestrian access).

Access to the Greenpoint Bridge from either direction is via… Greenpoint avenue. Easy to find, easy to run, the Greenpoint bridge takes you through areas runners rarely go to and over one of the most polluted waterways in America. Not to be missed!

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Bridges Project: Madison Avenue Bridge

The Madison Avenue Bridge is probably best known as the final bridge on the New York Marathon course. I’ve run over it three times – once in 2005 during my first New York Marathon, once in training for the race this year, and once during the race this year.

Madison Avenue connects Manhattan and the Bronx, crosses the Harlem river, and is one of those rare spots where the numbered streets in Manhattan and the Bronx line up. Pedestrian access to the bridge on the Bronx side is at 138th Street just after Grand Concourse. On the manhattan side, access is gained at 138th and 5th avenue.

For a bridge, Madison Avenue is pretty flat and forgiving. And by Mile 21 when you get here, believe me, you’re happy for a flat bridge.

Here’s a picture I took facing east, looking at the Third Avenue Bridge during a training run this fall.

https://www.instagram.com/p/8qFpkzvTAB/?taken-by=seanv2

Bridges Project: Willis Avenue Bridge

You cross five bridges during the New York City Marathon – the Verrazano, the Pulaski, the Queensboro, the Willis Avenue, and the Madison Avenue. By the time you get to the Willis, if you’re like me, you’re hurting, but if you’ve got some sense of your surroundings left, you’ll notice it’s a pretty nice (and new!) bridge. The Willis Avenue Bridge connects Willis Ave. in the Bronx at E. 135th St. and Bruckner Blvd. with 1st Ave. in Manhattan at 125th St. It has a wide pedestrian walk way on the west side and provides excellent views of the Harlem river. I didn’t stop during the New York Marathon, but I did stop on a training run I took up there a couple of weeks before.

Entrance to the bridge from the Manhattan side is at the intersection 1st Ave and 125th. On the Bronx side, you enter the pedestrian pathway at 135th Street and Willis Avenue. This one is among the newest bridges in New York City. If you’re in upper Manhattan or the South Bronx its worth checking out, even if you’re not at Mile twenty of the New York Marathon.

More great information on the Willis Avenue Bridge can be found on Phil’s website. 

Bridges Project: The Verrazano Bridge

I’m returning lately to the project of running the bridges of New York City. They’ll be much more on this project in the months to come. Today, I wanted to note one of the bridges I tagged recently — Bridge Number 1 on the McCarthy list, the Verrazano Narrows bridge.

Spanning New York Harbor from Staten Island to Brooklyn, the Verrazano Bridge is only runnable one day a year – Marathon Sunday* — and what a day it is. The Bridge makes up Mile 1 and some of mile 2 of the Marathon and represents the greatest elevation gain and loss you’ll have on the course. If you’re not feeling good and excited at this point of the race, you should just stop. There’s a long, long way to go.

I’ve run over the Verrazano twice, during the 2005 and 2015 marathons. I hope to run over the iconic bridge many more times.

Lining up at the base of the bridge with Wave 2 of the 2015 New York City Marathon

Lining up at the base of the bridge with Wave 2 of the 2015 New York City Marathon

*It is also ridable on your bike only one day a year during the 5 borough bike tour

Bridges Project: The Pulaski and the Queensboro

Every time I head out, this bridge project gets just a little but harder.  The Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges were an easy couple of miles from my home.  So were the Gowanus Bridges.  The Williamsburg was just a little bit further, but well within my running comfort zone.  Now that I’m starting to go a little further afield, things are getting interesting… and I’m having to pack my metro card.

This weekend I got the Queensboro, the ugliest (and longest?) of the Big Four East River bridges and the always charming Pulaski.

That’s ten down, eighty-one to go.

For this weekend’s adventure, I convinced good pal Paleo Joe to come along.  Joe is exactly the kind of friend every runner needs — he’s always up for a stupid running adventure.  When I asked him if he wanted to meet in his neighborhood  and run to the Pulaski Bridge, through Long Island City to the Queensboro, and then take the train home from 42nd street he said “sure”.

Runners, we’re all such idiots.

We got the party started around 8 am. I’d have left earlier, but Joe doesn’t have kids and he still clings to the idea that one “sleeps in” on the weekends.  Its cute.  From Joe’s place, we cruised down Washington Avenue to Flushing and hung a right, following the bike path as it meandered through Bed Stuy, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint.

Man has Williamsburg changed. I lived in that neighborhood roughly 10,000 years ago (ok, 1993-1994) when it was Puerto Rican bodegas, Polish Bakeries, and a handful of gentrifiers too poor to live in the Lower East Side.  The abandoned warehouse where I went to the Beer Olympics* is now a high-rise apartment building. The first apartment I lived in is now a club.

New York: its only constant is change.

From Williamsburg, we headed up through Greenpoint and over the Pulaski Bridge to Long Island City.  The Pulaski spans the Newtown Creek** and is the second bridge you cross in the New York Marathon***.

The Pulaski looking towards Queens

The Pulaski looking towards Queens

Its drawbridge, though I wonder how often its raised anymore.  It also has some pretty killer views of midtown Manhattan. It always reminds me of my first marathon.

Manhattan from the Pulaski

Manhattan from the Pulaski

Pedestrian access to the Pulaski is from McGuiness boulevard. You can’t miss it.

Leaving Brooklyn

Leaving Brooklyn

From the Pulaski, it was up through Greenpoint to the Queensboro**** – the East River’s ugliest bridge.

What is there to redeem this monstrosity? Decent views looking up the east river and down at Roosevelt Island? A long approach on the Queens side providing a scenic overlook of the Queensbridge Projects*****?

 

The view North from the Queensboro

The view North from the Queensboro

I don’t know; I’m not really a fan of this bridge.  The Queens approach is ridiculously long (and accessible from Crescent Street and Queens Plaza North) and the Manhattan exit is stupid steep with a hairpin turn.

It is also where the New York Marathon got real painful for me.  That may cloud my judgment of its aesthetic appeal.

After crossing the Queensboro, it was a short jaunt to 42 Street and home on the 4 train.  You’d think two sweaty, smelly, tattooed dudes in singlets would get a wide berth on the train, but you’d be wrong. Some dude was perfectly happy rubbing up against my nasty ass singlet just so he could lean against the doors.

This town fucking cracks me up.

*The Beer Olympics was a crusty/gutter punk festival of cheap beer and terrible bands held annually in New York.  When it was hosted in the abandoned warehouses, it was a Mad Max affair of bonfires, drunken fights, and roaming dogs.  I cannot imagine anything so out of control occurring in the New York today.

The Beer Olympics were so obscure, took place so long ago, and was organized by people with such a tenuous relationship to society that very little information about it is available on the Google.

This image is actually from the year after the year I am referring to:

Beer Olympics, 1995? Photo: Bob Arihood

** Second Superfund site crossed during this project!

*** The first one is the Veranzano, of course.

**** AKA the 59th street Bridge, AKA the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. New York is constantly renaming bridges, or giving them new nicknames. I love this.  It makes what is already a very intimidating city even more confusing for visitors.

***** I’m just going to go ahead and say no single housing project has produced more important Hip Hop than Queensbridge.  It was home to many of the stars of New York’s golden age of Hip Hop.  Including:

Nas:

Mobb Deep:

Capone and Noreaga:

Want more? check out this list.  Marly Marl is from there! Shante is from there! MC Shan!

 

The Long Run: Two Bridges the Williamsburg and the Manhattan

Another gorgeous Sunday, another bridge checked off the list.  That’s eight down, eighty three to go.

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Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of the Wiliamsburg

 

The Williamsburg, the Willie-B, the Billyburg – with one end in the Lower East Side and the other in Williamsburg, it is the bridge the unifies hip, young, New York City.  Covered in rusting steel latticework,  it isn’t a pretty bridge and its street art as advertising campaigns, coupled with its hip users, make it not quite the work-a-day hero the Manhattan Bridge is — yet it still has its charms.

The Manhattan entrance to the Bridge

The Manhattan entrance to the Bridge

First, it is highly used. I’m sure the City keeps statistics on pedestrian and cyclist use of the various East River Bridges. I’d be curious to know which is used the most.  My guess is the Brooklyn gets the most foot traffic, but I’d bet that the Williamsburg is the most used by regular cyclist and running commuters.  At rush hour, the bike lane can be as congested as the car lanes below.

Its also, like it cousin the Manhattan, utilitarian in design. That appeals to this yankee.  Like the Manhattan (and unlike the Brooklyn) it carries trains in addition to cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.  Its beauty comes not from its majestic design, but from its consistent use.  On my sojourn today, I saw hip kids on vintage bikes, Hasidic families out for stroll, tourists taking pictures of art installations, young Dominicans on their way home from Pride, and runners of every stripe. No one was marveling at the aesthetics of the bridge (ok maybe the tourists were) — everyone was just looking to get somewhere else.

There is a real beauty in that.

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The aesthetic charms of the Bridge

 

From my neighborhood, I reach the Williamsburg by heading down Dean to Bedford, through rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights and Bed Stuy, and up through Hasidic Williamsburg.  Pedestrian access to the bridge is easily located right on Bedford near South Sixth (bike entrance is further down near the South 5th plaza).  Like the Manhattan, don’t be an ass and run on the cyclist side.  No one will like you and you might get hurt.  Exit from the bridge in Manhattan is shared by cyclists and runners and is located on Delancey near Essex.

Dean Street Stencil

Dean Street Stencil

 

From there, you can do as I did – head down Delancey to Bowery, left on Bowery and up and over the Manhattan Bridge home to Brooklyn.  Or you could head cross town to the West Side Greenway. Or uptown on the East Side Greenway.  You could stop and get dim sum, or matzo ball soup, or artisanal cheese. You could take your sweaty ass to the New Museum, or the Tenement Museum, or the Brooklyn Banks.  You’re in lower Manhattan, the world is your oyster.

Lower Manhattan art/ads

Lower Manhattan art/ads

 

The Long Run: Two Bridges — Brooklyn & Manhattan

After a couple of weeks of not running any bridges, this Saturday I was back at it and  checked two of the lowest hanging fruit– the Manhattan and the Brooklyn — off my list.  That’s seven down, eighty-four to go.

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Over the years, the Manhattan Bridge has been a staple of my running. I’ve run over it dozens of times as part of my running commute and on countless long runs.  Once, I did a back and forth on it it at nine o’clock at night to deliver a set of keys to E.  It’s my favorite of the “big four” East River bridges.*  To me, its the quintessential no nonsense New York City Bridge. Encased in fencing, it’s the ugly cousin of the majestic Brooklyn Bridge.  It doesn’t have the best views, or the nicest entrances, but if you want a no bullshit means of getting from Brooklyn to Manhattan, whether it be by train, car, bike or your own two feet, it can’t be beat.

Underneath all the Graffitti is the inscription that the Manhattan Bridge was built in 1901, making it the second youngest of the big four.

Underneath all the Graffiti is the inscription that the Manhattan Bridge was built in 1901, making it the second youngest of the big four.

For runners coming from Brooklyn, the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge is located near the corner of Jay and Sands Streets.  Take the stairs to your right, not the bike path to your left.  For runners entering from Manhattan, use the entrance on the south-east corner of Bowery and Canal.  Remember that the south walkway of the bridge is for pedestrians; the north walkway is for bikers.  Inevitably, when you’re on the bridge you’ll see someone doing this wrong – don’t be that person.

Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Manhattan on a perfect saturday afternoon.

Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Manhattan on a perfect saturday afternoon.

 

Saturday was such a gorgeous day, even the Manhattan was crowded with walkers, runners, and tourists setting up fancy cameras to take pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I cruised along, listening to Big Krit, and taking a couple of pictures.  I exited onto Canal Street and weaved my way down through Chinatown and the courthouse area to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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If it’s a gorgeous day in New York, the worst place in the City to run is the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is bumper to bumper with thousands of tourists.  Frankly, no runner belongs there. I certainly didn’t, and I tried to get it over with as quickly as possible. I weaved between families on citibikes and tourists taking selfies.  I couldn’t even bring myself to stop to take a picture.

 

Brooklyn Bridge on a summer's day = shit ton of people.

Brooklyn Bridge on a summer’s day = shit ton of people.

The Brooklyn Bridge is majestic, with stunning views of the city and the statute of Liberty.  If you’re visiting New York, you really should go. But its better enjoyed as a leisurely stroll than on a run.  If your dead set on running the Brooklyn Bridge, I suggest you go early. Whether you’re walking, running or biking, entrance on the Manhattan side if from City Hall Park at Centre Street. You cannot miss it.  On the Brooklyn side the main entrance is at Tillary and Adams.  There is also a less obvious entrance closer to the water at Prospect and Camdan Plaza.

I exited at Tillary and headed back past the Manhattan toward the Navy Yards.  I wanted to add a couple more miles to the day so I overshot my house, and cruised up Washington to Eastern Parkway.  It was a perfect day to be out exploring, but it was getting late and my legs were tired.  I called it a day at nine miles, went home, and put the little dude to bed. Next week is a cut back week, and I don’t think they’ll be any bridges.  But the week after than, I plan to knock another couple off the list.

Love is Patient

Love is Patient

Slowly but surely I’ll get them all. I’m not in a rush, I’m not going anywhere.

 

*The “big four” being the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro.  By the way, I just made up that designation.